Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Different Interpretations of Rude Behavior–Intercultural Miscommunication!

June 14, 2012

(Google photo)

Some parents in our upper-middle-class Middle-Eastern school come in to see teachers and make demands such as, “I want my child moved up to the front row today, and I want him to stay right there for the entire school year!”  When a teacher tries to explain that they have to consider and balance the needs of all the children in the classroom, these parents sometimes reply,  “YOU don’t tell OUR children what to do; we tell YOU what to do, because WE pay your salary by bringing our children to your school!”  How does a teacher even respond to a parent with ideas like this?

As a foreign teacher, each time I had a strange encounter like this with a  haughty and disdainful parent, I wondered about this strange behavior toward teachers and administrative staff.  Whenever one of these encounters took place, I would ask my Middle Eastern assistant why these parents would behave this way.  I was always told, “They behave that way because they are rich.”  It still wasn’t clear to me what being rich would have to do with rude and imperious behavior.  So when I asked how the two things were linked, I always got the response, “They think they can behave that way because they have money.”  This didn’t clarify matters, either.  It was especially not clear since I knew plenty of other people who had even more money and did not behave in that sort of manner at all.

Aisha Gaddafi Libya

Typical “look” of the type of parent who “talks down” to teachers in the Middle East.

I understood my assistant’s words, but still did not understand the behavior, or what his words actually meant.  Ten years later, I believe I now understand–it’s not really about money, but about status.  In every country, many people try to follow and copy what they perceive the rich people doing.

Coco Chanel

For example, let us look briefly at the fashion of suntanning, in Europe and the United States.  In the 1800s, women used to stay out of the sun and even carry a parasol to keep the sun from falling on their skin.  Prior to 1900, those with tanned skin were presumed to be low-class common laborers.  In the 1920s, this perception began to change.

Coco Chanel

When Coco Channel returned from the French Riviera with a suntan, having a suntan (particularly in winter) became associated with having the time and money to vacation in warm places.  By the 1940s, sunbathing and suntans were popular everywhere.

In the Western United States in the 1960s and 1970s, students took great care while skiing to never use suntan cream (in order to purposely come back from skiing with a tan or a sunburn), and to leave the ski-lift tickets attached to one’s jacket all season.   Both of these actions raised one’s status, showing that he or she was someone able to afford to go skiing (an expensive sport).  From the 1960s onward (the age of jet travel) a suntan in winter demonstrated that one was part of the leisure class, able to afford to jet off to a warm destination in winter.

Other countries have other ways of indicating that one is a member of the wealthy, or leisure class.   In some Middle Eastern countries (such as Syria, among others), there is a special system which confers the ultimate status.  The most important people carry special cards in their wallets which place them above the powers of law enforcement officials.  Only members of the most important families are able to obtain this card, and so, are free to act without any repercussions.

Joan Collins playing the haughty and domineering Alexis Carrington on Dynasty.

Therefore, some people in the Middle East (especially the newly rich) perceive that what it means to “act like an upper-class person” is to act very haughty and imperious, as though you can order other people around, and no one can say anything to do no matter how rudely you act, or what acts you commit.   This is what I believe was happening in my school. My conclusion at present is that the parents who behaved in an imperious manner were mostly not well-educated or well-brought up, yet had the fortune through business or inheritance, to come into money.  Buy behaving this way, they are essentially trying to announce to others, “Look!  We are important people, and we are more important than you (the teachers and school employees)!”  So this behavior, in their mind, is a way for them to gain status and prestige, as well as to flaunt it to others.  As a foreign teacher, it seems to me to be greatly lowering their prestige, but people in my local country seem to understand that, “Since they are rich, they feel entitled to act that way.”

This system even affects the behavior of children in school.  Children in our school are often rude to their teachers, and completely uncooperative with regard to class rules (continual talking while the teacher is teaching;  not staying in their chairs; refusing to line up or walk quietly in a line; talking loudly, rather than whispering).  Every new idea works for just a day or two, and then it’s right back to the old behavior.

After teaching in the Middle East for twenty years, I now believe that the reason children are uncooperative is because being cooperative shows that you and your family must have low status.  High-status children behave as they wish, because to do so shows the other children that they come from an “important” family and are “above” having to follow the teacher’s rules.

–Lynne Diligent

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Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree Can Be Cooked and Eaten Like Chestnuts

November 28, 2011

Map of the habitat range of the Cork Oak, or Quercus suber

Most commonly known for its use in making cork, the Cork Oak tree’s acorns are a delicious nut fruit which can be found for sale in Southern (Western) European and North African markets, already boiled and ready-to-eat, in late November.

The acorns are up to four centimeters long (two inches), and are boiled before eating, similar to the way chestnuts are boiled before peeling.  The fruit of the nut tastes sweet, and remarkably like chestnuts.  (I would not be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.)  This cooked nut is large and meaty and makes a perfect substitute for chestnuts in any Thanksgiving or Christmas recipes.  (The advantages to using acorns over chestnuts is that each acorn contains double the meat of a chestnut, and the step of cutting x‘s in the chestnuts before boiling them can be dispensed with.)

Acorn of Quercus suber (Cork Oak) on the tree

Here is what the boiled acorns look like:

Cooked Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree (Quercus suber)

I had never heard of eating acorns, or that the Cork Oak even had an edible fruit.

If you live in North Africa, the name of the fruit (and the name of the tree) is called ba-lote (neither syllable emphasized, and “lote” rhymes with “note, but draw out the long o sound twice as long as it would be in English).  They are sold on carts in the medinas (older parts of town) of North African cities and towns.

Cork Trees in Portugal, called "Balote" in North Africa.

Doing some research on line, I discovered that oak trees are divided into two main groups, Red Oaks and White Oaks.  The White Oaks are all the genus Quercus, while the Red Oaks are the genus Mesobalanus.

Acorns from the various Red Oak species contain much higher amounts of bitter tannins (which interfere with the ability to metabolize protein).  The acorns from White Oaks are much lower in tannins, and have a sweet nutty flavor.    The Cork Oak tree itself belongs to the White Oak genus, and White Oak is used to make wine barrels.

Acorns are an important food for birds, and for many small and large mammals (pigs, bears, and deer); however, they are toxic to horses.  In Portugal and Spain, pigs are turned loose in oak groves in the autumn to fatten themselves before slaughter.  (This is similar to American pigs being fattened on peanuts in order to produce the famous Virginia Smithfield hams.)

Smithfield Ham

Acorns have a high nutritional value, and compare well with other nuts  in terms of being high in protein and carbohydrates, as well as important minerals.  Acorns are are sometimes ground into flour, as well as sometimes roasted and added to coffee drinks.

Are any of my readers eating acorns, anywhere in the world?  If so, please tell me about it!  I had never heard before today that acorns were an edible fruit; I hope others will have an opportunity to try them.

Enjoy!

–Lynne Diligent


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